Monday, September 29, 2008

What I'm going to say.

My personal Jedi Master, Dave, tends to blog about "what he should have said" after a weekend message. I thought I'd try that in reverse this week. I'm kicking off a new teaching series this weekend at VCC entitled "In God We Trust - how the church responds in a tough economy." This isn't what we planned on speaking about this month. However, sometimes certain issues arise in a culture that cannot be ignored by the church. A few weeks back I wrote a paragraph to narrow my thoughts for this week:

WEEK ONE: THE MISSION ISN'T IN RECESSION: The church is on a mission from God – to proclaim the reality and availability of the Kingdom of the Heavens, to love those far from God so much that they may consider his love for themselves, to freely and radically give away all that we have for the sake of Christ and Kingdom. The church cannot afford to take the two easy options in our current economic condition: 1.) To ignore the bad economy and preach na├»ve prosperity or 2.) To acknowledge the problem and cowardly shrink away from the mission. This is the time that the world needs the church to be the church - to stand up, offering hope in practical and impractical ways. This means that we as individuals should align ourselves with Kingdom economic practices and fully trust God to provide for his people.

That's about all I have so far. I've been reading a lot of early church teachings on economic issues - the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermes, Augustine, etc. I've been wrestling with Jesus' call to radical economics in the gospels. I've also noticed that Acts, James and Revelation all take Jesus' teachings in subtly different directions. This stuff isn't new for me to think about. I was profoundly influenced long ago by Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder in regard to my Kingdom economics. I've been re-reading their stuff and enjoying the current essays at www.ekklesiaproject.org. (A highly recommended site/cyber community btw.)

So, this week feel free to wrestle along with me. How would you use 30 minutes to broach this subject with thousands of people ranging from raging skeptics to seasoned saints? What big issue stirs in your heart when you think about these things? What Bible stories or truths come to your mind? Do we need a call to courage or a call to understanding or both? Comment away and maybe we can figure this one out together this week...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

mtg.

Meetings. I used to rant and rave about how much I hate meetings. In my current job, I'm pretty much in meetings all day every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This week has been a little more than normal. I'm writing now in the one hour of non-meeting that I have between Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. and tonight at 9:00 p.m.

Meetings are good if they have a purpose. Different meetings have different purposes. Some of my meetings this week are one-on-one conversations. Some with friends, some with strangers. Some of my meetings this week were large - like Alpha. A meeting like that is interesting. 120 people volunteering to show up at the same time and place to ask questions about God and life. That seems like a good reason to meet. Some of my meetings happen every week - with Dave or Garry or Brad or Ed. Some meetings feel a little more weighty, like our six hour VCC Elder meeting coming up at noon.

Then there are the meetings that tend to give to you more than you give to them - the improv class where you see your students break through, the baseball game where your son makes his first double, the candle lit dinner during a power outage with your wife. Those meetings give you fuel for the others. In my life, I mostly go to meetings for the sake of other people - to serve my city and my church. But it's those other meetings that serve me.

The problem with meetings, of course, is that you can meet all day long about how to live your life and never live it. The ebb and flow of community and solitude, of work and rest, of duty and freedom, of order and chaos is perhaps the great unspoken struggle of my life. I have had years of solitude, rest, freedom and chaos. I've also had years of community, work, duty and order. And I have, more than most people I know, had the remarkable ability to romanticize order when I play and play when I work. As I get older, however, the seasons seem to be getting closer to each other - merging in some way. Perhaps maturity looks more like the seasons overlapping and interacting with one another on a daily or hourly basis.

This I know. In the middle of literally 36 straight hours of meetings, I am most grateful to have found this hour to pray and write. This hour will buy me what I need to show up alert for the next nine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Old Writings, New Tidings

I spent a good part of this morning transferring old stories, articles and essays that I have written from my old laptop to my new one. I do mean "old" laptop - I have had three other primary computers since I used this one. Most of the writings I found were written between 1998-2001. It's a strange Saturday activity to read your own words from ten years ago for a few hours. I expected to hate everything and feel foolish for ever writing them. That happened a few times, but overall I was surprised that I enjoyed reading my own words. A lot of my essays and articles were very serious, but I found a humorous Christmas piece that I did in 2000. It's not Christmas time, but I thought I'd share it anyway. (The other things I wanted to share were 20-50 pages long...I thought that might shut blogger down...and who reads 50 page blog entries anyway?)

Here ya go - It's called, "Christmas as Best as I Can Remember It."

Christmas, as best as I can remember it, is about the birth of a baby named Jesus. Jesus was born on a snowy day in late December in the year zero. His mother’s name was Mary and his father was a fat, jolly man named Chris Kringle. Mary must have gotten remarried later on because Jesus’ last name was Christ, not Kringle.

Mary was a virgin, which means that she was born between May 12 and June 14, otherwise she would be known as the Capricorn Mary or the Leo Mary. Jesus was born in a manger. I don’t really know what a manger is, but I suppose it was like an olden-day version of a 7-11 -- a kind of pit-stop for people who would take road trips on donkeys.

There were a bunch of shepherds in the manger where Jesus was born. An angel with a harp came to the North Pole and told the shepherds that they should go look for a baby with a corn-cob pipe, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal. So, they rustled up some flying reindeer, including one really cool one named Rudolf who had a glowing nose, and flew to Bethlehem, a small town somewhere in the Middle East – Pennsylvania, maybe.

There were also three wise men at the manger that night. They were professors at the local community college and had followed a star from the East. I’m not sure the star’s name, but he must have been someone pretty important like Mel Gibson or Clint Eastwood to get three smart guys to follow him through the snow to see a baby. The wise men brought gifts for Mary and the baby: five golden rings, frankenstein, and a partridge in a pear tree.

There was also a little boy named Tiny Tim at the manger. He had come to the manger because his father, a mean man named Scrooge had seen a scary ghost who took all there money. As a result, all Tim could do was try to earn some extra cash by playing his drum for newborn babies. Pa-rumpapumpum

The first Christmas tree wasn’t much to look at either. It was just a puny thing brought by some kid with a yellow and black shirt. That is why it was such a surprise to everyone when a Grinch tried to steal it.

Steal it and steal it he tried to do. But succeed with his crime, he never would do, for whenever he tried to retreat with the tree, a bumble would come and bite at his knee.

It was so cold that first Christmas night that the wise men invited the animals to sleep in the manger -- sheep, cattle and reindeer alike. Despite all that noise, the little baby slept through the night without crying and Mary, Chris Kringle, the Shepherds, Wise Men, Tiny Tim and the kid with the drum knelt politely to pose for a polite figurine designer from Wichita named Charles Dickens . . . and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Road to Emmaus, PA selected at film festival!


I'm happy to announce that our "road trip" film was selected to screen at The Derby City Film Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. They selected 40 films out of more than 400 submissions. It will screen on Sunday, October 12 at 3:45 pm at the Louisville Memorial Auditorium. For more information or for tickets check out the festival website at www.derbycityfilmfest.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

48 hours off the grid and counting.

Hurricane Ike hit Cincinnati two days ago and shut us down. That's right, a hurricane hit Ohio. Hurricane force winds anyway - gusts over 80 mph. We haven't had power since 2:00 pm on Sunday and some estimates say it could be another five days depending on your neighborhood. Today I found a rogue coffee shop about six miles from my house with power and free internet - a double blessing.

So what happens when you don't have power for 48 hours?

1. The kids don't go to school.
2. The grown ups don't go to the office.
3. The food spoils.
4. No TV, video games, lights, dishwasher, garbage disposal, garage door opener, AC, electric fans, alarm clocks, cell phones after the batteries die, etc.
5. Neighbors talk to each other. It's the weirdest thing.
6. You teach your kids about pioneers and contentment and sharing and Benjamin Franklin.
7. Lots of Stratego, Monopoly, Yatzee and Black Jack. (Yes, we teach our kids to gamble. We are still Las Vegans at heart.)
8. Open flames in every room of the house after 8:00 pm.
9. You ponder the power of simplicity.
10. You embrace the gas grill on the back deck as the only source of heat - we've made potatoes, garlic bread, pancakes and chai tea on our grill so far.
11. Everyone at the one open grocery store in town is surprisingly talkative, including introverted teaching pastors.
12. You grow strangely thrilled by it all - you find yourself not entirely sure if you want the power to come back today or not.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Road to Emmaus, PA


Here is the official movie poster for VCC's first feature length film, The Road to Emmaus, PA. We had hoped all along that our four-day trip from Jerusalem, Ohio to Emmaus, PA would produce a feature documentary. It couldn't have happened without two of my friends pouring in hours and hours of editing work. Norm Freitag spent weeks watching the over 50 hours of footage and cutting the project down to a 90 minute story. Then, over the last several weeks, Mark Denney has led us through the final stages of seeing our dream come true. Their selflessness and resolve will be something that I will always remember about this project.

As I type this, Mark is working to wrap up the final edits so that we can meet our deadline for the Derby City Film Festival in Louisville on Monday. I'm hopeful that they will aceept the project and premiere it there in mid-October. We'll also plan a premiere at VCC sometime this fall.

I'm honored to be a part of this project, but even more proud to call these guys my friends. They're amazing.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Home in time.

I've been in Chicago for the last four days hanging out with the gang at Community Christian Church in Naperville, just outside of Chicago. They are innovators in many areas, but I was most impressed with the leadership culture at their church. I've returned home with a lot to think about...

The biggest news of my week is that we were able to come home one day early, which means that I returned home today on September 8th instead of tomorrow, September 9th as planned.

That's important because someone in my house was born on September 8, 2001. Aidan turned seven today. I missed Eli's seventh birthday two summers ago because of this ridiculous job. His birthday fell in the middle of a seven-week tour, and it was incredibly painful to be absent from my family for that long. So...coming home a day early means that I have still only missed that one birthday of the sixteen they have now shared.

Here's a recent photo of Aidan and the striking young fella he was named after, Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne: